What is a Brother?
Religious Brothers - a reflection on vocation, a call to ministry.
While it is true that one of us can ever fully appreciate nor understand another person’s specific vocation, it seems the call to religious brotherhood is the most misunderstood of all.
The most common misperception of a brother is that he is simply one who is “a step away from priesthood”, or worse one who “didn’t quite make it to the priesthood”. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate by-product of a hierarchical church structure which causes us to rank vocations. It is also a terrible injustice to the uniqueness of each vocation – an an injustice to those who have responded to the Lord’s particular call to them.
Brothers can be found doing virtually every ministry which Christians perform: evangelisation, catechesis, education, the works of mercy and service to those in need. Brothers are essential members of many pastoral staffs, hospital and nursing home teams, diocesan office staffs. Brothers live and minister among us in cities, suburbs, and rural areas; many labour in foreign mission lands.
One of the greatest challenges to living the vocation of a religious brother is the integral commitment to life in community. Brothers find themselves sharing a common life with a variety of men of various ages, cultures, ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. This diversity becomes one of the richest gifts which religious brothers bring to the Church and to their ministries.
Religious brothers stand among us as powerful witnesses to a community life reminiscent of the early Church. Whatever class distinction and privileges may have existed prior to their entering the brotherhood, they share all things in common, each one being responsible for the needs of the rest.
The question is not, then, when will the brothers finally become priests? But when will the rest of us become more like brothers.
Carole M Eipers D. Min., is Vice-President, Executive Director of Catechetics for William H. Sandler, Inc., New York. The reflection is part of a VOCATION, A CALL TO MINISTRY series that appears on the second Sunday of each month.
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